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Thinking about picking up the upright. Gear?

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by mixmastermike, Feb 5, 2014.

  1. mixmastermike


    Jan 6, 2010
    Hey guys,
    I have been playing the electric for about 4 years and have been finally getting into playing some jazz which has sparked an interest in the upright. Problem being is that I have no idea what direction to go as far as equipment goes specifically the bass itself. I am not a professional musician so I am not looking for a professional instrument. I would like to get one that provided me a jumping off point. Let's face it just because I love the electric doesn't necessarily mean the I will love the double. I do not have the luxury of being able to play a bunch of basses and decide which one speaks to me, I live in a small town, not much in the name of classical musical stores, thus I turn to you guys.
    Bye the way I am in no hurry.
  2. Lee Moses

    Lee Moses

    Apr 2, 2013
  3. StyleOverShow

    StyleOverShow Still Playing After All These Years Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    May 3, 2008
    Hillsdale, Portland
    It is a big jump, the strings are so thick and far apart, as I recall when I made the leap 10 years ago. Go for playability, easy to play, used, of course with pickups, piezo presumably, already installed. I would expect to pay $1500 to $2000 in LA. Craigslist in the nearest big town might be your best bet
  4. I used to play the electric bass. I took up the double bass about four years ago.

    My advice is:
    1. Rent your first instrument. Ideally, rent from a place that has some kind of focus on double bass. Plywood is fine, but the generic plywood basses from a generalist classical music store are often set up terribly, with the wrong and nasty strings, inch high string height, sound post poorly positioned, etc. It's a tough enough instrument to play without making it harder with poor set-up. Make sure that it is set up correctly for the style you want to play. Strings are critical. Probably start with Spirocores for jazz, with a bit of arco for intontation. You don't say where your small town is, but maybe see if some of the big name double bass stores do long distance rental?

    2. Even if you don't want to play classical, rent or buy a bow. Playing arco (ie, with a bow) will get your intonation right much more quickly than if you only play pizz. You will sound horrible with a bow to start. Just commit, and work through that.

    3. Get a teacher. Even if you have to travel a couple of hours or more for a first lesson, and can only have a lesson a month. Or get skype lessons, or something. It is a really different instrument from electric bass, and you don't want to be trying to use your electric bass method on the double bass. You need to use double bass fingering if you are going to play in tune, you need to get hand and wrist position right. And you need to get your right hand pizz technique right if you are going to sound good, and not thin and weedy.

    4. It is a completely different instrument from the electric bass. And the transition can be hard. Don't let this dishearten you, because it can really be worth it. I thought I would transition easily. Same tuning, same function - how hard could it be. And yet - hard. The transition from guitar to electric bass was vastly easier. The electric bass is almost in the guitar family, where the double bass is more in the violin family. People may or may not agree with that historically, but when you are thinking about playing, it is useful - you are changing family of instrument.

    5. Don't worry about pickups or amplification or anything for the first year or more. When you decide to stick with it, and hunt for your own bass, you find the right bass and then find a pickup that suits you. All the pickups can be added to all of the instruments.

    6. You may be tempted to get an electric upright bass. I'd recommend not. They are not much like a double bass, really. More like a fretless electric on a stick. You can pick up a little technique, but you'll still face quite a jump when you go to a full double bass.

    7. It is a wonderful thing. It's a big, inconvenient, physically challenging instrument to play. But it really sounds great. And your connection to it is so physical. It's not a string vibrating in a magnetic field, causing a paper cone to vibrate somewhere behind you. It's a big wooden box resting against your stomach and your knee, and the whole thing vibrates in sympathy to generate the sound.

    Good luck!

  5. get something that feels comfortable with your body and hands.
    get one of them preamps designed for upright, and a decent pickup.
    put some foam into the f-holes when you plug into an amp to reduce feedback.
  6. Vigilantelove


    Aug 14, 2013
    You get what you pay for. Expect to spend $1500-$3500 for a decent, dependable bass. Look for well reviewed laminates or hybrids in this price range.

    Watch some videos, get a rough idea of basic left hand grip. This will help when trying out basses so you can feel which necks are comfortable to you with correct left hand grip.

    Worry about amplification later. A pickup can be installed later and choosing an amplifier is heavily affected by musical needs and what sounds best with the bass. Worry first about buying the bass that feels and sounds right to your hands and ears.

    Do search these forums, the internet, etc... For what qualities to look for and what flaws to watch out for when buying a bass.

    Take a look at the brands that are well reviewed here. They're well reviewed for a reason, they'll offer a good starting point.

    Don't make a hasty decision. The bass should feel like part of your body when you're playing with proper technique. It should never fight you. You should be easily able to produce a few notes in first position that sound good even with poor LH technique. The right bass will open up your potential. In other words, if it doesn't feel right, don't compromise because of price... it probably won't feel right ever.

    Expect to invest more than money. UB requires commitment on a physical and mental level. It takes quite a bit of work to build up the muscles, the muscle memory, and the energy to play consistently and for consecutive hours. It's a bit of a demanding beast, but it's incredibly rewarding.
  7. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    Bravo, Anthony! Bravo! I nominate this post as a stickie that's easily accessible to all who are considering making the jump.
  8. By all means do it. Is a great instrument. For jazz get a decent ply, Engleheart, Shenn, there are others, and get it set up with spirocore Weichs(light ga) and nice low action.
    The lesson advice is good. Its real easy to hurt yourself if your not careful.
    Myself, never had a lesson but I would if I had the time and a good teacher handy.
    I came to it from the bluegrass world, some friends of mine needed a bass player and I got drafted. THey shoved one in my hands. Heck I was a guitar player, never even played an electric bass before that. Some painters tape on the side of the neck for reference, 3 chords and the truth, 1-5, go for it. Turns out I loved it. So my technique would prob scare the daylights out of a trained player. I've had blisters on blisters, and aches and pains galore, but I learned what not to do, preservered and now 20 yrs on its been my main instrument and gig getter.
  9. mixmastermike


    Jan 6, 2010
    I suppose I should have mentioned that he small town I live is in Alaska. Still on the road system but still a few hours from a instrument shop. I look forward to the challenge, and I believe it will help me tremendously in my weaker areas, like reading, by making me slow down again. Thanks for the emphasis on the setup. I am assuming that it isn't as easy as a truss rod and bridge adjustment on my j bass. I am assuming 3/4 size correct? I have read a lot of good things about Shenns. I would live to hear from anybody who has experience with them.
  10. Lee Moses

    Lee Moses

    Apr 2, 2013
    mmm, I'm in a fairly remote area, and I bought my bass from a private individual 10 hours away. But I went to his house and tried it out first. What you might do is try to incorporate some bass shopping in whenever you take a trip anywhere. Even if you can just get your hands on about 4 or 5 just to start to get an idea of things you like and things you don't like.

    Setup on a double bass is a pretty big deal. If you do not have it professionally set up, you will be making your climb unnecessarily difficult.

    3/4 size is typically considered "standard."

    I own a Shen Willow. You can find a recording of it here against two better, more expensive basses. But it is a carved instrument, and I am assuming you are looking toward a laminate bass. I have played laminate Shens (it's been some years ago), and they all play nicely, although they have a "plain" sound, IMO.
  11. Setup on a DB is a few hours of fiddling around with files, scrapers and special tools. Expect it to cost a bit. Adjustable bridges are a really good thing because they allow you to fine-tune it as the instrument moves due to humidity changes etc.
  12. It's a big old fiddle. Nothing like a guitar. You need violin tools in the jumbo sizes and know how to use em.